A Gentle Roaring
When I stepped outside there was a gentle roaring in the air. All the ditches and the nearby creek were running madly. The West side of Vancouver Island had received over 220mm of rain in twenty-four hours; here on the East side we’d only endured a little over 100mm. Roads and bridges are washed out. Rivers and streams are over their banks. An idiot kayaker drowned. It is sunny at the moment, more rain and snow are in the forecast.
And so the year seeped into February, still wet, still winter. Wet news is no news any more.
A friend in Sweden e-mailed to say the temperature there was – 26°C and there was so much snow it was being piled in the town square. I couldn’t bring myself to e-mailing him a photo of snow drops emerging in the local woods. There was a time when enduring, and even enjoying, cold and snow was a manly thing for me but the romance now eludes me..
All that rain, for the moment, has passed. The interior of the province continues to deal with heaps of snow and the ski hills are doing wonderfully. Spring is slowly creeping back. For the last three mornings, we’ve actually had a sunrise, little buds and tiny flowers are poking their noses out. Yesterday I watched a hummingbird try to scavenge a meagre breakfast from the flowers on a hazelnut tree behind my fence. Life has been so dull there’s not much else to write about except the weather. Little projects on ‘Seafire’ continue but the old saw about “when you have the time you don’t have the money” is certainly true.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and so to give my wife a well-deserved break I’m out on the boat; alone. I know I wouldn’t want to be house-bound with the likes of me so here I am boat-bound with the old bugger hisself. Ostensibly, I’m out here to harvest some prawns. I made one set today and brought one up. Yes, one spotted prawn. I ate it.
There’s a gale warning up but for the moment it is tensely calm. I’m anchored in a few feet of water in Pirates Cove near the north end of the Gulf Islands. It is one of those ‘World Famous’ cruising destinations which is jammed with yachts for many months of the year. Tonight I am blissfully alone, just me and the raccoons ashore. One other yacht is tucked into a far corner, stern line rigged ashore, just as the ‘book’ demands.
They’re close on a lee shore. If the forecast proves itself and their anchor pulls in the thin mud there…..they’ll be screwed.
In the morning I’ll see which part of the weather forecast is correct and make my decisions from there. I always feel complete and at home when aboard any boat, especially my old friend ‘Seafire,’ but retrieving a prawn set alone in rough water is especially challenging. Not only do you have to be able to find your floats, you need to manoeuvre the boat and hook the line aboard without getting it tangled in the boat’s propeller. Then you need to bring all the line and the traps aboard. Thank the gods for my electric windlass. If you use a big, bright float it is easy to find but in high wind and large seas big floats tend to sail off with your gear. So you need to have everything anchored adequately which means more weight to haul up. High visibility also makes it easy pickings for prawn pirates and there are plenty out there. Bastards! There are low-lives who will take your set; traps, floats, prawns and all. The cost of new floats, 400’ to 500’ of line, weights, traps and bait is easily a few hundred dollars. Unfortunately in these southern waters you need to stay within sight of your floats for a few hours while the traps “soak.” Hopefully you can catch a fish or two while you wait. I am one of the world’s worst fisherman so I can offer no advice on that subject.
The high price in the store of fresh seafood is breath-taking but still much cheaper than the cost of getting it yourself. There are also all the multiple costs of the boat itself. And, for perspective, it is worth noting that there are millions of people out there at this moment who would love to be able to experience this sort of problem. Instead it’s couscous again… if they’re lucky!
Thursday morning arrives as a “No hurry” sort of day. The low clouds hurtle past the writhing tree tops. There’s no point in wrestling with prawn gear until the wind settles down. I can find enough trouble without looking for it. My neighbour leaves. The sloop is a large neo-look-at-me shining black phallus. It is loaded with short dark-eyed folks who penguin about on deck in bulky cruising suits. They come close alongside as they depart. I stay inside. There is a lively debate on the foredeck as several crew peruse a fluttering chart. The boat veers toward the wrong side of the buoy in the narrow shallow channel. I brace myself and notice their home port is marked as Seattle although a Canadian ensign cracks in the wind. At the last moment they swerve into the correct channel and mercifully disappear around the point. I unpucker.
I have often lamented the droning rhetoric of CBC Radio, especially in regions where it is the only sound on the airwaves. Here, where the sky is bulging with radio signals, I’m listening to CBC Radio 2. which seems to have been reformatted. They play music, a good eclectic mix. Last night I listened to a wonderful mix on a four hour program called “After Dark.” Go figure!
Now that I’ve consumed an entire pot of bilge bitters seadog coffee it’s time to vibrate my way into the remains of the day. By the time I had washed the breakfast dishes the surf was up in this anchorage which is usually a millpond. There is a brisk Norwester blowing into the open end of the cove.
The end of the second day finds me anchored in my favourite spot on the south coast, Kendrick Island. It lays on the south side of Gabriola Pass which separates Valdez and Gabriola Islands. The view is spectacular, especially with the crystalline clear air which comes with the cold northwest wind. I look up at Mount Baker, miles away across the Strait Of Georgia. There are no shore lights here. Now that night has fallen the stars throb brilliantly. I am refreshed simply to be here.
I made one set today in the relatively sheltered waters of Trincomali Channel. Recovering the traps took over an hour. With a rising wind blowing against the boat and nasty steep seas it was a challenge but I would be damned to give it up. “Give me my prawns or giv e me death!” There are enough for a meal, hard-won tasty. I’m writing in the main cabin back lit with two oil lanterns. At the moment the radio is playing a program called “Reclaimed.” It throbs with global indigenous hip-hop and punk rock. So much Hey hey, hey hey. Some of this neo-native music is brilliant. Kudos! It IS warm and fuzzy in here tonight.
If the wind continues tomorrow, I’ll leave the prawns in peace and head back to the marina. It’s time to get ready for my gig at Fisher Poets in Astoria next week. There’s no wind, yet. But a bright red sunrise shows it’s sullen colour for a few minutes and the forecast is utterly confusing with wind to come from all directions. I give up; it is time to head home, for now.
Here are two quotes from Annie Proulx’s latest book, thick and well worth the read.
“And who could count the new inventions and occupations? Colleges emerged from raw ideas; daring men invented river flatboats to penetrate the wilderness; shipmasters, not content with trade or passengers, began to pursue whales for the costly and fine oil; teacups finally had handles, an effete fad that Nicolaus thought would soon die out. And that fellow Franklin’s inventions: the lightening rods, which had saved hundreds of churches and houses from destruction, and the stove, which encased fire safely. It was an exciting time to live.”
“Nothing in the natural world, no forest, no river, no insect nor leaf has any intrinsic value to men. All is worthless, utterly dispensable unless we discover some benefit for ourselves in it – even the most ardent forest lover thinks this way. Men behave as overlords. They decide what will flourish and what will die. I believe that humankind is evolving into a terrible new species and I am sorry that I am one of them.”
… Charley Duke Breitsprecher
Both quotes from ‘BARKSKINS’ by Annie Proulx